Conflicting reports on the "riot" of June 6, 2012 in Washington
June 07, 2012
WITN is reporting on a drug bust altercation Wednesday evening in Washington. Reports are that the Beaufort Sheriff's Narcotics squad was conducting an undercover operation when officers reportedly the observed what appeared to be a "drug transaction" on Van Norden Street. They say they observed Keith Small attempt to swallow a plastic bag they believed to contain drugs. A scuffle ensued and several officers used force to subdue Small.
Officers reported that they attempted to extract the bag(s) for Small's mouth but in the process he appeared to be having trouble breathing. Officers said they then observed Small appearing to have trouble breathing so they call EMS and attempted to administer emergency procedures for breathing. Witnesses on the scene reported that it appeared to them that the officers were beating the suspect.
Small was subsequently taken to Vidant Beaufort Hospital where he was initially reported to be in satisfactory condition. However, WITN is reporting late Thursday afternoon that Small's condition has been downgraded to critical. All this happened around 7-8 p.m.
Later in the evening crowds of roaming young people began to create a disturbance. Washington Police responded to several calls, as did Sheriff's deputies, later in the evening. The video below contains an explanation of what happened by Assistant Chief Sandy Blizzard.
Sources who live in the neighborhood told the Observer conflicting stories on Thursday afternoon. Some blamed the Sheriff's deputies for using excessive force. Rumors began to circulate that they had beat Small unconscious. Others told us it was simply about a dozen troublemakers who used the arrest as an excuse to "raise hell." As Major Blizzard explains three arrests were made between 11:00 p.m. and 1:30 a.m.
One witness told us that Small is well known to local law enforcement and in the neighborhood. "He be knowed as one tough dude around here. The Man go after him every chance they get. I thought they were going to beat him to death. I hear he be in bad shape now," one source told us.
Another witness, whom we have known for several years as a very responsible citizen, told us: "They can say they were trying to help him but that is not what happened. They had him handcuffed and several of them were hitting him with their fists. I was very upset but we were all afraid to do anything at the time. But I can fully understand why some of these young people got angry. It made me angry also. There is no excuse for beating a man who is handcuffed like they did."
There were reports that Small was in fact out on bond for drug charges when this incident happened.
Here's Major Blizzard report:
Here's the press release the Sheriff's Office put out:
On June 6, 2012, Investigators with the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office Drug Unit conducted a controlled purchase of cocaine in the City Washington. During the controlled purchase Investigators witnessed a drug transaction occur between an unknown black male and Keith Maurice Small, black male, age 33 of 315 West 15th Street in Washington.
Investigators approached Small while he was sitting in a GMC Yukon SUV located on Van Norden Street near Fifth Street. When Investigators approached, they saw Small shove plastic bags of suspected illegal drugs into his mouth. Investigators attempted to detain Small. Small resisted, tried to escape and fought with Investigators while inside his vehicle. When Investigators gained control of Small they realized he was having trouble breathing. Investigators immediately requested Washington Emergency Medical Services to respond to the scene. While Investigators waited for Washington Emergency Medical Services to arrive Investigators removed a plastic bag containing suspected marijuana from Small's throat and attempted the Heimlich Maneuver and chest compressions on Small in an effort to render first aid.2 Emergency Medical Services arrived and removed a plastic baggie containing multiple smaller plastic bags containing suspected cocaine from Small's throat. Small was immediately transported to the Beaufort County Hospital to be treated.